WASHINGTON, March 1, 2005-Ask a teen about how a plant grows and you might be surprised at how many details you hear, if the teen has been to the Agricultural Research Service's Agricultural Sciences Academic Workshop.
Held every spring semester since 1994 at the agency's Western Regional Research Center in Albany, Calif., near San Francisco, the workshop recently garnered a 2004 "ARS Administrator's Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights Award" for its founders and coordinators, all of whom are or were on the research center staff. The award was presented at ARS' recent annual honors ceremony in Washington, D.C. ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The award winners are plant physiologist Susan B. Altenbach, microbiologist Jeri D. Barak-Cunningham, molecular biologist Victoria L. Carollo, plant physiologist Frances M. DuPont, chemist Gloria B. Merrill, chemist Dominic W. S. Wong, chemist Ladell Crawford (deceased), former plant physiologist Katrina Cornish, and retirees Glenn Fuller and Pamela Keagy, both former research chemists now serving as research collaborators.
"By offering the workshop in cooperation with the West Contra Costa County Unified School District, the Albany scientists have reached out to talented, minority high school juniors, giving these students a hands-on opportunity to learn about high-tech agriculture and food sciences research," said ARS Administrator Edward B. Knipling.
"The sessions with the experts encourage students to seek scientific careers," Knipling said. "The students receive credit for attending the 15-week series, and get to do fun and educational experiments alongside the researchers, such as using plant latex to make hypoallergenic rubber, moving new genes into a potato, or isolating bacteria from a lettuce leaf."
Each student who participates in the workshop is required to teach a science lesson at an elementary school. In that way, the workshop has reached approximately 2,000 elementary school children in the San Francisco Bay Area.